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State v. Ceasar

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

February 28, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
ROBERT CEASAR

         ON APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 391-148, SECTION "J" Honorable Darryl A. Derbigny, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. District Attorney Orleans Parish Donna Andrieu Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR STATE OF LOUISIANA/ RESPONDENT

          Robert Ceasar #388150 Louisiana State Prison CBB U 1R #3 Angola, Louisiana 70712 RELATOR/ PRO SE

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Paula A. Brown

          Terri F. Love, Judge

          Relator Robert Ceasar ("Mr. Ceasar") seeks review of the trial court's September 13, 2017 denial of his amended motion to correct an illegal sentence. Mr. Ceasar seeks resentencing pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), that was made retroactive by Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 (2016). The holdings in Miller and Montgomery do not apply to Mr. Ceasar, who was 18 years old at the time he committed second-degree murder, the offense for which he was convicted. Additionally, Mr. Ceasar offers no new rule of law or newly discovered evidence under La. C.Cr.P. art. 930.8, nor does he show he received an illegal sentence. Accordingly, the writ is granted; however, relief is denied.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On October 2, 1997, Mr. Ceasar was found guilty as charged of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole. This Court later affirmed Mr. Ceasar's conviction and sentence. State v. Ceasar, unpub., 98-0010 (La.App. 4 Cir. 9/29/99), writ denied, 99-3216 (La. 4/20/00), 752 So.2d 994.

         In writ 2016-K-1064, Mr. Ceasar's writ of mandamus concerning his motion to correct an illegal sentence was transferred to the trial court for consideration. The trial court then granted the motion for the limited purpose of conducting a hearing. Initially, Mr. Ceasar sought resentencing pursuant to Miller, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility for early release imposed upon a juvenile offender under the age of 18 violated the Eighth Amendment. Mr. Ceasar believed that he was under the age of 18 when he committed the homicide for which he was convicted. A copy of Mr. Ceasar's birth certificate indicated that based on his birthday he was 18 years old at the time of the crime. Mr. Ceasar, through counsel, filed an amended motion to correct an illegal sentence that was summarily denied on September 13, 2017. Mr. Ceasar seeks this Court's supervisory review of the trial court's denial of his amended motion to correct an illegal sentence.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Unlike an application for post-conviction relief, a motion to correct an illegal sentence is never time-barred. La. C.Cr.P. art. 882(A). "[W]hether a particular sentence is legal or illegal is a question of law. Thus, a district judge's legal determination of the legality or illegality of a particular sentence, like any other question of law, is not entitled to our deference." State v. Gibson, 16-0132, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/16/16), 192 So.3d 132, 135. Therefore, we review the district court's ruling de novo. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         In his amended motion, Mr. Ceasar avers that there is no distinction based on science between him and someone who is under the age of 18. He claims that the same science relied on by the Miller court demonstrates that the neurological maturation process continues well into a young person's twenties. Accordingly, Mr. Ceasar asserts that he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

          The United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (2005)[1], a case cited in Miller and relied upon by Mr. Ceasar, acknowledged that "the qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18." Id., 543 U.S. at 574, 125 S.Ct. at 1197. Likewise, in Miller, the United States Supreme Court observed the unique qualities and characteristics of juveniles, explaining: "youth is more than a chronological fact. . . . It is a moment and condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. . . . And its signature qualities are all transient." Miller, 567 U.S. at 467, 132 S.Ct. at 2467 (internal citations omitted). However, the Roper court observed, as did Miller, that "[t]he age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood." Roper, 543 U.S. at 574, 125 S.Ct. at 1197-98. Mr. Ceasar has presented nothing new or persuasive that would warrant a change in that conclusion. Cf. Atkins v. ...


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